Although a Goranson family reunion this summer in Mazeppa was a family affair the event also gave six of the siblings, who served in various branches of the armed forces, the opportunity to take part in the military-related activities during Mazeppa Daze.
Debbie (Goranson) Carrier was ecstatic that she, as well as all of her four brothers and one sister were able to take part in the Field of Flag Ceremony and march in the Mazeppa Daze parade. She credited it all to Larry VanDeWalker and other members of the honor guard.
“It was really awesome,” she said, explaining that five of the siblings are members of the Mazeppa Honor Guard, with the exception of her brother Burt. “The guys came together and found Burt a shirt and an outfit, they let him carry a flag in the parade, they went out of their way to make it happen for him – which was very, very special,” she added.
Debbie went on to say that she usually makes a trip back to Mazeppa once a year and enjoys taking part in the activities that are sponsored by the legion and honor guard. She is quite impressed with the events they put on and said, “They do a super job.”
As far as her military career, Debbie retired from the Air Force after serving 22 years says she is “trying to be retired.” She is currently unemployed, but is doing a lot of volunteer work working with homeless veterans through an employment agency. She provides transportation to veterans to the VA and also does “whatever is needed.” “It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
While in the Air Force, Debbie worked in a dental lab and as a dental assistant. Most of her time was spent statewide, being stationed in Omaha, NE. However, she spent some time overseas and was stationed in Athens, Greece and Anchorage, AL.
Debbie stated that she chose to go into the Air Force because she wanted “to do something different than those in her family.” She graduated from Mazeppa High School in 1977 and served in the Air Force from 1980 to 2001. Currently she resides in in northwest Florida in the Ft. Walton Beach area. She has one daughter, Leah, who is 25 years-old. Ironically, her daughter is following in her mother’s footsteps and is joining the Air Force. She plans to go into space/air.
Debbie’s other siblings that served in the military include Burt, Roy, Ray, Yolie and Dale. Her older brother, Burt entered the service after graduating from Mazeppa High School in 1967. Burt stated that he joined the Navy in 1968, serving for four years, plus he signed on to the reserves for a couple years after his term was up. While in the service he was trained as an aviation mechanic while stationed in Tennessee. He was then transferred to the state of Washington, where he was stationed the entire time he was in the service. Ironically, he said, “Even though I was in the Navy, I never got on a ship.”
In addition to doing his regular job in the Navy, Burt stated that he did “a lot of fun things.” He took up the sport of parachuting and did show jumps and training for the Navy. In fact, many years ago he and his brother Roy sky dived into the ball field in Mazeppa during the Fourth of July fireworks. Their performances ended when an unfortunate accident occurred. Despite that, he is credited with having over 500 jumps. In addition, while he was in the Navy he was in charge of the drill team, which performed in parades. However, the drill team had a down side, he said, as it also served as the burial team.
After his release from the Navy Burt went to school in Minnesota for nondestructive testing, or as he explained, looking for cracks in engines. He is still employed in that field and works in sales and marketing for a firm in Pasco, WA. His employment takes him to all of the continental states and Canada, as well as international sales in Europe and Asia. He enjoys his work and says, “I keep looking for the next trip.”
When he isn’t traveling for his job, Burt stated that he is busy in his community and has served as a Scout Master for 17 years. “Everybody needs to be active in their community and this is what I choose to do for mine,” he said. He currently has 32 boys in his troop and stated that they are “probably the most active troop in the area,” adding that they camp once per month. His wife, Nan, is also a Girl Scout leader and his two boys earned the honor of Eagle Scouts. He and his wife also have a daughter and one grandchild.
Another great feat that Burt seems to have accomplished so far is keeping cancer at bay. About eight years ago he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had his pancreas removed. “I’ve been blessed,” he said, adding, “I’ve had the right treatments and at this point in time it has worked for me.”
Burt enjoyed coming back to Mazeppa for the family reunion and was thrilled to take part in the Field of Flag ceremony, as well as marching in the parade. “It was exciting to be a part of the group,” he said.
Another Goranson who served in the military that is quite well known in the Mazeppa area is LeRoy, better known as “Roy.” Roy and his wife, Nancy, live south of town. He retired from the masonry profession in March and has been active in the local American Legion as well as the Mazeppa Area Honor Guard.
Roy graduated from Mazeppa High School in 1969 and served in the Army from 1970 to 1971. He stated that his lottery number was eight, which meant that he was one of the 30 individuals who climbed on the bus in January to fill the draft quota.
Having worked at Zumbrota Silo fresh out of high school, Roy stated that being drafted “didn’t give me much time to think about what I was going to do.” But his path in the Army was quickly forged when he signed up for jump school and was trained as a paratrooper.
“Once I got my wings I was sent to Viet Nam,” he said. He was a member of the “Screaming Eagles,” or the 101st Airborne Unit, and was stationed in Viet Nam, spending about 12 and one-half months in the bush, for 13 months out of the two years he was in the Army.
Roy acknowledged that he had “quite some experiences over there.” He too recalls jumping into the Mazeppa ball field on the Fourth of July with his brother Burt and stated that they did the jumps in 1975, 1976 and 1977.
In addition to Roy and his wife Nancy being well-known in the Mazeppa area, his son Brandon is known throughout the area as the chief of the Mazeppa Fire Department. They also have a daughter, Haley, who is working on her PhD in Scotland.
Ray “Foozie” Goranson is another household name in the area. Ray lives in Zumbrota with his wife Cheryl. They have two grown children, Nickolus and Terian. He is currently the Environmental Services Director at Zumbrota Health Services and noted that he has been employed there “a long time.”
In regard to his military career, Ray stated that he was one of the last groups to be drafted and entered the Army at the “tail end of Viet Nam.” He served for two years, from 1972 and 1974, where he was stationed in Germany for 18 months. While in Germany he said that he did a lot of traveling as a truck driver and built a lot of soccer fields in German prisons. He also recalled with a chuckle that the Germans had “good beer.”
Upon his release from the Army he returned to the Mazeppa area and resumed employment. He graduated from Mazeppa High School in 1971 and is a member of the Mazeppa American Legion and Honor Guard. However, most people in the area would say that his claim to fame is “Foozie’s Famous Flapjacks.”
Yolie (Goranson) Donley is the oldest daughter of Burt and Garnet to serve in the armed forces. Graduating from Mazeppa High School in 1973, she joined the Navy in 1975 and retired in 1996 after 20 years of enlistment. She was in aviation while in the Navy and worked in supplies the entire time she was in. She noted that she was mainly stationed on the East Coast, but had done tours in Puerto Rico and Portugal.
Another responsibility she had while in the service was training others in SERE, which stands for Survival Evasion Resistance Escape. This, she explained, was a simulated program teaching military personnel how to survive in Prisoner of War (POW) camps.
When asked why she joined the Navy, Yolie acknowledged that it wasn’t because she felt that particular branch of service offered anything better. Instead she laughed when she said, “I liked the uniform.” “The cracker jacks uniform,” she said. “They were really sharp looking.” She further went on to explain that women didn’t wear them, so it probably didn’t make sense, but that’s why she joined. She noted that they changed the looks of the uniforms shortly after she joined the Navy, but was delighted that the uniforms were brought back within the last two years she was in the Navy.
Yolie has been retired from the Navy for over 10 years and lives in Mississippi with her husband Russ, “where it’s nice and warm,” she added. Ironically, she stated that she now works with ships and is a civilian ship maker that makes cargo ships that travel from California to Hawaii.
Yolie is a member of the local honor guard and stated that she tries to make it back to Mazeppa at least one time per year. Her and Russ drove from MI via motorcycle and said that she appreciated seeing the “Welcome Home Goranson” sign when they arrived in Mazeppa this past summer.
Dale, is the youngest Goranson child and also the youngest son that served in the armed services. Graduating from Mazeppa High School in 1981, he joined the Army, serving from 1982 to 1988. Dale stated that he enlisted in the service so he could receive money to attend college. While in the Army he was in special forces until he injured his leg. Then he went into computers. He spent one year in South Korea doing computer repairs and finished his time being stationed in California.
Upon returning to Mazeppa, he attended what was then called Red Wing/Winona Technical College and earned an Associate Degree in Supervisory Management. He is currently employed in maintenance with Gemini in Cannon Falls. He lives in Bellechester with his longtime partner Mary Ellinghuysen and their son, eight-year-old Gage. He too is a member of the Mazeppa American Legion and Honor Guard.
With the exception of four of the siblings who live far away, the remainder reside within a 60 mile radius of Mazeppa, according to Zola (Goranson) Munsrud, a Mazeppa resident. Because of that, she said, they try to get together for the Holidays and some birthdays. However, a couple factors prompted the organizing of a Goranson family reunion. For one, she stated that they took everyone’s health into consideration and felt that they had been “lucky” and that it was time to get together. Secondly, the youngest, Dale, turned 50, which meant that all of the siblings were now over 50 years old. And, she said, they chose to hold the reunion over Mazeppa Daze so that “everyone could come home and enjoy other things too.”
Incredibly, 12 of the 13 siblings were able to attend the reunion. On top of that, approximately one-half of the Goranson’s grandchildren were able to make it too. The siblings, children of Burton “Speed” and Garnet Goranson, all grew up in Mazeppa. Children from oldest to youngest are: Shirley, Burt, LeRoy, Patti, Raymond, Zelda, Yolie, Linda, Lee, Debbie, Sheila, Zola and Dale.
“It was a lot of fun, a lot of people,” said Zola, whose home and backyard served as a type of base camp.
According to Zola, her parents lived in the Mazeppa area their entire life. Her father had a milk hauling business and her mother was a stay at home mom. Speed passed away in 1983 and her mother passed away in 1981.
Speed served in the military too and according to his military papers he was a Private First Class in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1942 to 1945. Records also indicate that he was trained as an airplane mechanic in Glendale, CA. and that he served as a mechanic, truck driver and salvage Non-Commissioned Officer. In addition, it states that he was in charge of a warehouse with 70 Italians working under him. His discharge papers read: “Replaced a major and was replaced by a major.”
The Goransons involvement in the Mazeppa American Legion spans across many years. Speed was a past commander of the Mazeppa American Legion and Garnet was a past Auxiliary member.
Of the Goransons involvement in the American Legion and the military, J. Larry VanDeWalker said, “Mazeppa is very proud of their military service and the fact
that they all continue to serve by helping others in their communities.” In addition, he said, “The work they do each year as a family to raise money for fighting cancer – Relay for Life has been spectacular.” - By Dori Klein